JEFFERSON CITY – The Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention has voted to appeal a Camden County judge’s decision April 3 granting summary judgment in favor of Windermere Baptist Conference and other defendants.
The Executive Board will appeal to the Southern District Court of Appeals in Springfield. The convention is seeking the return of 1300 acres of Windermere real estate, which was removed from MBC control when Windermere’s board secretly voted in 2001 to become self-perpetuating, along with the boards of four other MBC entities.
While the MBC sought reconciliation and even binding Christian arbitration, the self-perpetuating boards rejected the gestures, leaving MBC’s Executive Board no responsible choice but to pursue legal remedies to restore the entities to the Missouri Baptists who established or adopted them, and who funded them for generations, according to MBC Executive Director John Yeats.
In the case of Windermere, a trial was scheduled to begin April 1 in Camden County, but Judge Ralph Jaynes granted summary judgment to Windermere less than two weeks before opening statements were to be heard. The judge ruled that a prior Cole County judgment was a bar to second action in Camden County, based on a legal doctrine called “res judicata.”
“All we are seeking is the opportunity to tell our story before a jury of our peers,” said Yeats. “Many of the details that prove the deception have been designated as confidential by the defense lawyers and are under a gag order until they are presented at trial. This remarkable story can only be fully told when it is told in open court, at a trial. We will ask the Appeals Court to allow us to tell that story. And one of the reasons is so that Missouri Baptists can know what actually happened. After over a decade of litigation, it is obvious that part of the legal strategy employed by Windermere’s legal team is to keep some facts secret from the public forever.”
Yeats noted that the MBC cases against three other self-perpetuating boards – the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist College, and The Baptist Home – are progressing well, with an April 29 hearing date set by the court to decide the amount of legal fees owed by the Foundation to the MBC.
“We have pursued these cases because of the fiduciary responsibility we have to those Missouri Baptists who fostered and funded these entities,” said Yeats. “The charters of these three entities clearly stated that they could only make changes to their charters with the approval of the executive board and the MBC, something the entities’ trustees disregarded when voting to make themselves self-perpetuating.”
Yeats called on Missouri Baptists to pray for all parties engaged in the litigation so that right prevails and restoration begins as soon as possible.